Children live to play. We hear this every time we interact with them and you can see it in the things they learn at nursery, pre- and primary school. At this age, they’re being taught the building blocks of learning. So where do you come in and how can you help? Below we’ve thrown together wonderful ideas to help cement your child’s all important reading skills when you’re at home.
1. Make a sight-box sand box
Have a browse through Life Hack’s 11 creative ideas. They have lots of great ideas. We particularly love their tips on how to make a sight-word sand box for indoors, learn shapes with lolly sticks and more. With their ideas you can have some fun crafting the tools with your kids, before diving into some playful learning.
2. Phonics fun online
BBC Alphablocks is a great place to start if you’re either getting into phonics with your child or you want to help them to practise by themselves. Much like Numberblocks, it keeps learning fun and playful. BBC bitesize is another excellent resource. Aimed at ages 3-11, it’s full of quizzes and videos to keep learning fun.
Teach your monster to read is the most interactive option for your child because it’s a game - , plus it was designed in collaboration with academics, which is surely a bonus. To access it for free, you need to be on your computer. Finally, if not of these have tickled your fancy, then move on to the Top Marks website, they have a big range of suggested websites and apps for all learning ages. We defy you not to find something appealing for your little one.
3. Phonics fun offline
We've got a wealth of playful creative classes that educate while keeping your children entertained and busy and that's especially true when it comes to reading.
Make your own alphabet collage
For some fun crafting while you learn you could plan an afternoon to make an alphabet collage with Maggie & Rose.
And, if you can bear to bring phonics home from nursery or school it will make helping your child to learn to read SO much easier and it’s actually quick and easy to pick up. The Ladybird team at Penguin have written a brilliant article all about phonics for parents, stretching from nursery and preschool all the way up to Year 2. It tells you how to make letter sounds, how to blend them, plus crucial information about how to keep learning fun and easy for your kids (i.e. don’t tackle it when they’re distracted by the TV or are very tired).
4. Try a phonics mat
You can also print out a phonics sound mat. Usually these have a picture of an item that begins with the letter that you need to sound out. E.g. orange provides the correct pronunciation of 'o'. These will help both you and your child to pronounce letters phonetically. Try out Twinkl’s sound mats pictured below.
5. Reading online
You don’t need to have a physical book in front of you to read with your child, you can also read online with them. There are tonnes of videos of people – famous or otherwise – reading books to children online.
Have a look at Storyline Online. It has endless videos of celebrities, authors and others reading favourite kids’ books.
You could also simply google ‘famous people reading kids’ stories’ and you’ll find a wealth of links to choose from. This includes books for all ages – you can find authors and actors reading Harry Potter, for example. You can also access our storytime library of favourite books for small children read by our Maggie & Rose teachers themselves.
And have you considered asking someone you know to read to your child? Perhaps Granny or Grandpa, or a favourite aunt or family friend could video themselves reading your child’s favourite story. Or do it in real time over Zoom or Facetime. If they’re not sure how to go about it, here are some excellent tips from author Ali Sparkes.
6. Reading offline
Reading with your child is one of the best, and easiest, gifts of time that you can to give them. It’s not only a wonderful way to bond, it also gives them a skill that can bring them comfort, joy, fun, inspiration and knowledge for the rest of their life – that’s quite a feat. If you’re not sure where to start or would like some ideas about the best ways to read with your child, The Book Trust is brimming with ideas for children of all ages.
Pearson UK is another excellent source of inspiration for reading, especially its top 10 tips to help children enjoy reading. And it doesn’t have to be expensive, you can borrow (and order) books from your local library, you can ask if anyone has books to spare on a social media group (you’d be surprised!) and you can sometimes borrow books from your child’s nursery or school.
7. Make a story basket
Recently we came across a brilliant idea cooked up by parent and teacher, Michaela Clowes. Michaela wanted to encourage her two year old during the first lockdown to engage and look forward to reading with her. She began to think more broadly around the stories she could introduce her little one too, and to find ways which would make them more playful for smaller children and in turn help bring the stories to life. The result was her story baskets. We hope you agree, they are just wonderful tools for learning through play at home.
PS... failure IS an option
Teaching children is demanding for you as well as for them. They will fail – many, many times – before they get it right. This is where you come in. Failure can be a difficult concept for kids to grasp. They might look at you and wonder how you get everything that. If they’re constantly pushed to do better and better, they will see failure as a disaster of epic proportions. It’s a good life lesson in general, but especially when helping your child to learn: remind them that we all fail sometimes.
US President Harry Truman said of his father, whose farm failed during the Great Depression of the 1930s: “How can my father have been a failure when his son is President of the United States?”
Check out this brilliant article by Pro Dad on ‘10 things you can teach your kids about failure’.
And for more ideas about how to help your child do well at school, The School Guide has some great tips (that thankfully are the antithesis of pushing your child and making them work harder all the time!) to help you to encourage a love of learning.
More learning through play...
Browse our extensive library of creative classes to help your child unleash their imagination.
Is your child a budding storyteller? Their idea could be made into the next episode in their continuing adventures!
Check out our regular Book Club for inclusive and diverse suggestions for children's books